Topic Archives: Time Use

Increasing Commuting Costs?

With Earth Day approaching, we have been wondering about increased costs for commuting to work. At BLS, we don’t have environmental cost statistics, but we do have worker costs.

Some employees don’t have to commute — they are able to work from home.

  • In 2015, the share of employed persons who did some or all of their work from home on days they worked was 24 percent. This is up from 19 percent in 2003.

An image showing someone working at home.

 

But a large number of the workforce still travels to and from a physical workplace, day in and day out. If you do need to trek into work, over the last 10 years, changes in consumer prices for a couple modes of commuting follow.

If you go by car:

First you need a vehicle.

  • New cars: Up 6 percent

Next you need to fuel it.

  • Gasoline: Down 7 percent

But before you can put it on the road…

  • State motor vehicle registration and license fees: Up 27 percent
  • Motor vehicle insurance: Up 56 percent

And you may have to pay for parking once you get to work.

  • Parking and other fees: Up 38 percent

An image showing cars in rush hour traffic in an urban area.

Those in an urban area may have another option to driving:

  • Intracity transportation (bus, rail): Up 35 percent

And one last option:

  • Human-powered commuting (walking to work): No increase!

We hope these data help you make wise decisions on your commuting choices. If nothing else, you may decide to set up a car pool — to help pay for parking!

Why Do We Ask about How People Use Their Time?

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Rachel Krantz-Kent, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On any given day, about 80 percent of the population age 15 and up watch television, and they watch for an average of 3 hours 29 minutes.* That’s an interesting piece of trivia, you may be thinking, but why does the Bureau of Labor Statistics need to know that? Without context, TV watching may seem like an odd area of focus — but this is just one of many statistics we collect as part of the American Time Use Survey. And Americans across the country use that information every day to get their jobs done.

The statistics above, for example, may be helpful to those promoting healthy behaviors and products, such as those who work in the health and fitness industries. The data can also be useful to television producers in determining programming.

Unlike other BLS surveys that track employment, wages, and prices, the American Time Use Survey tracks a less conventional, but equally important, economic resource that we never have enough of: time. The survey compiles data on how much time Americans spend doing paid work, unpaid household work (such as taking care of children or doing household chores), and all the other activities that compose a typical day.

Some of these measurements have economic and policy-relevant significance. For example, the time people spend doing unpaid household work has implications for measures of national wealth. Information about eldercare providers and the time they spend providing this care informs lawmakers. Measures of physical activity and social contact shed light on the health and well-being of the population. And information about leisure—how much people have and how they spend it—provides valuable insight into the quality of life in the United States.

All of the data are publically available and used by businesses, government agencies, employers, job seekers, and private individuals to examine the different time choices and tradeoffs that people make every day. Here are some other interesting facts the survey reveals about how Americans spend their time.

Unpaid household work: 66 percent of women prepare food on a given day, compared with 40 percent of men.

Why it’s important: These statistics measure one aspect of women’s and men’s contributions to their families and households and help promote the value of all work people do, whether or not they are paid to perform it. Compared with men, women spend a greater share of their time doing unpaid household work, such as food preparation. Statistics like these can shed light on barriers to equal opportunities for women.

A graphic showing how mothers and fathers spend their time on an average day.Editor’s note: A text-only version of the graphic is below.

Where people work: 38 percent of workers in management, business, and financial operations occupations and 35 percent of those employed in professional and related occupations do some or all of their work at home on days they work. Workers employed in other occupations are less likely to work at home.

Why it’s important: Information like this is important for people starting or changing careers. For those interested in this aspect of job flexibility, or for those who want more separation between their work and home, this information can help them identify occupations that are the right fit and decide which careers to pursue.

Childcare: Parents whose youngest child is under age 6 spend 2 hours 8 minutes per day on average providing childcare as their main activity, compared to 1 hour for parents whose youngest child is between the ages of 6 and 12. (These estimates do not include the time parents spend supervising their children while doing other activities.)

Why it’s important: Parenting can be an intense experience for many reasons, including the time it demands of parents. These statistics provide average measures of the time involved in directly caring for children. The data can be helpful to health and community workers whose work supports parents, as well as employers interested in developing ways to promote work-life balance and staff retention.

Eldercare: 61 percent of unpaid eldercare providers are employed.

Why it’s important: Knowing the characteristics of those who provide unpaid care for aging family, friends, and neighbors can help lawmakers create targeted policies and aid community workers in developing supportive programs.

Transportation: Employed people spend an average of 1 hour 6 minutes driving their vehicles, 7 minutes in the passenger seat, and 8 minutes traveling by another mode of transportation on days they work.

Why it’s important: Knowing how workers travel and the amount of time they spend using different modes of transportation can be useful to a variety of people, including city and transportation planners, land and real estate developers, and designers in the automobile industry.

This is just a snapshot of the information available from the American Time Use Survey, all of which is used by researchers, journalists, educators, sociologists, economists, lawmakers, lawyers, and members of the public. View the data listed above and find out more about how time-use data can be used.

* All data are from the 2014 and 2015 American Time Use Surveys.

Working Parents’ Use of Time

Moms vs. Dads on an Average Day

Based on households with married couples who have children under age 18, in which both spouses work full time, 2011–15.

Dads Moms
+55 minutes more working +28 minutes more on housework
+39 minutes more on sports and leisure +28 minutes more caring for children (more if those children are under 6)
+10 minutes more on lawn & garden care +24 minutes more on food prep & cleanup

 

The Value and Influence of Labor Statistics in the 21st Century

What’s in the “DNA” of BLS—what were we born with? Not so long ago, as I prepared to become BLS Commissioner, I read the First 100 Years of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The first chapter describes how BLS was created (in 1884) during a time of severe economic upheaval and industrial unrest. Policymakers of the time realized that a key barrier to peace and shared prosperity was the lack of trustworthy information about the economy. What has struck me ever since is how we can trace some of the distinguishing features of today’s modern BLS directly back to those first days, to the vision of one of our founders. This post links that past to the BLS of today.

Carroll D. Wright, first BLS Commissioner

Commissioner Carroll D. Wright

In 1893, sometime after becoming the first Commissioner of Labor, Carroll D. Wright set forth a mission for the agency. He was a pioneer in the search for truth and a better understanding of labor statistics by the public. In his Value and Influence of Labor Statistics (later published in the 54th Bulletin of the Bureau of Labor), he described our mission as collecting “information upon the subject of labor in the United States, its relation to capital, the hours of labor, and the earnings of laboring men and women, and the means of promoting their material, social, intellectual, and moral prosperity.”

Today, our mission is much the same as it was then. Commissioner Wright established a modern statistical agency long before the Internet made it possible for anyone to access our data and read our publications on demand. These days we say that our mission is “to collect, analyze, and disseminate essential economic information to support public and private decision-making.” While the wording has evolved with the times, the core meaning remains the same. Furthermore, in support of our mission for the past 132 years, BLS has practiced what Commissioner Wright termed “the fearless publication of the facts without regard to the influence those facts may have upon any party’s position or any partisan’s views.”

Wright developed much of the vision and practices that he instilled here while working for the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor from 1873 to 1878. There he launched several studies to provide the people of Massachusetts with accurate labor market data. One of the largest studies was to find out the true unemployment level in Massachusetts. At the time, many people believed there were 200,000–300,000 people unemployed in the state and 3,000,000 unemployed in the entire country. Alarmists spread word through newspapers, speeches in Congress, and political resolutions until these figures were widely believed as fact, despite no previous attempt to measure unemployment. Wright’s staff canvassed the state twice to discover if the rumored number was accurate. The Bureau of Statistics of Labor of Massachusetts determined the true number of unemployed in the state was 28,508 skilled and unskilled laborers in June 1878; by November there were fewer than 23,000 unemployed, while the national number could not have been more than 460,000 unemployed. Wright explained that “The figures published by the report were used all over the country, and completely reversed the popular belief relative to the vast number of the alleged unemployed in the country.”

Today, you can see a parallel between Wright’s efforts to learn and classify the number of unemployed workers in Massachusetts and how BLS has expanded its offering to include six alternative measures of unused or underused labor. We call these measures U-1 through U-6. BLS not only calculates these alternative measures nationally, but also for each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two large metro areas. This ensures that the American public, researchers, and policymakers have a wide range of data to understand the health of the labor market and make important decisions.

Also similar is our enduring focus on specific populations in the workforce. Under Wright’s leadership, state Bureaus of Labor investigated the use of child labor and uncovered the “evils it entailed upon the community.” The Bureaus published the number of young children (those under 10 years old) who worked in factories and workshops. Because of these studies, the numbers declined significantly. Time and again, Wright sought out the facts and ensured the American people had the information they needed to make decisions. Wright said, “It is only through rigid, impartial, and fearless investigations that any community can know itself in many directions.”

Today, we continue to seek new and better measures about particular groups in our economy and society. For example, in recent years BLS expanded the scope of the Current Population Survey to include six new questions to identify people with disabilities. These data provide insight into the labor market challenges of people with disabilities. The data aid individuals, nonprofit organizations, employers, and policymakers in making decisions affecting the lives of Americans with disabilities. Our monthly Employment Situation report now includes information about the employment status and labor force participation of the more than 30 million Americans age 16 and older living with a disability.

Our “DNA,” that is, our mission, our vision, and our understanding of the value of the statistics we produce, is as important today as it was in 1884. We continue our determined work to impartially collect, analyze, and publish essential economic information to support private and public decision-making. Today BLS provides a wide variety of information that benefits all Americans. I am certain that Commissioner Wright would be pleased that our reports, charts, and data are far more accessible than he ever could have imagined. Whether you’re exploring a new occupation, starting a business, looking for the change in consumer and producer prices, identifying average wages by occupation, or learning how Americans spend their time, there’s a stat for that. For all these situations and many more, BLS helps Americans make smart decisions in their lives. The cost of providing this valuable information may come out to less than $2 per person each year, but its positive impact remains priceless.

Why This Counts: How Much Time Do Americans Spend Working and Engaging in Other Activities outside of Work?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is best known for our monthly job and inflation reports, but we also publish data on many other topics. My blog series, “Why This Counts,” explains why we conduct our surveys and how people can use BLS data at work and home. I hope this series will help bring BLS data to life—to transform a set of abstract statistics into a snapshot of life in America.

“Time is money,” said Benjamin Franklin in Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One. One of the most precious resources each of us has is our time. Indeed, how we use our time can tell you a lot about our priorities, opportunities, and constraints.

Today I am happy to announce our annual news release and 2014 data for the American Time Use Survey (ATUS)—and that we’ve made it easier to compare this year’s results to previous years.

Unlike other BLS surveys that track employment, wages, and prices, the ATUS tracks a less conventional economic resource that we never have enough of: time. The survey compiles data on how much time Americans spend doing paid work, unpaid household work (such as taking care of children or doing household chores), and all the other activities that compose a typical day. With this information, economists, sociologists, and other researchers can examine the different time choices and tradeoffs that people make every day.

ATUS data are behind many of the facts you often see in the news, such as:

  • At what times of day do workers with different occupations work? (25% of workers in protective service occupations, such as firefighters and police, are at work at midnight.)
  • How many hours of sleep do people get at different ages? (For teenagers, 9.8 hours!)
  • How many hours per day do employed parents spend caring for their children? (See chart below.)

time-use-blog-chart

How do we get this key information? The ATUS is the only nationally representative, continuous survey that provides estimates of how, where, and with whom Americans spend their time. In 2014, more than 11,500 respondents completed the survey. The results represent the national population by gender, age, race and ethnicity, and other characteristics. We select the ATUS sample from households that have already responded to another BLS survey, the Current Population Survey. This enriches ATUS data because we already know the demographic characteristics and household composition and don’t have to ask for that information again. Instead, most of the ATUS interview involves asking respondents to report a time-use “diary” for the previous day.

In service to the rest of us, ATUS respondents voluntarily and carefully report every activity they did for the 24-hour period beginning at 4 a.m. on the day before the interview and ending at 4 a.m. on the day of the interview. So, dear reader, each of us owes the ATUS participants a huge thank you for their public service!

Economists from the U.S. Census Bureau and BLS put these responses together in a way that prevents anyone from identifying individual respondents. BLS then makes the data available to the public in the form of public-use data files, tables, charts, and news releases.

People often ask us how these estimates have changed over time. It’s now much easier for you to examine trends in time use because we have added ATUS historical data to the Labstat database on our BLS website. You can view thousands of ATUS time series going back to 2003, the first year of data collection. These data have always been available through the ATUS news release archive and tables. We are pleased to present them now in a more accessible and convenient format.

There are two big benefits to having ATUS data available from the Labstat database. First, all the historical data are now available in one place. You no longer have to combine data from different Excel or PDF documents to create a time series. Second, all estimates in Labstat have been created using the same statistical weighting method, which has been consistent since 2006 but changed slightly each year before that. This allows you to directly compare estimates over time.

We’ve selected a few data series that we think will be of particular interest. You can view these “Top Picks” at http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?tu

Some examples are:

  • The percent of employed people who did some or all of their work from home on days they worked
  • The average hours per day mothers and fathers spent providing childcare, by age of their youngest child
  • The average hours per day spent in leisure, including watching TV, and socializing, on weekdays and weekend days

Many more data series are available through the Historical Tables extraction tool. These tables allow you to select one or many estimates from ATUS tables, specify a time range, and retrieve the historical data. I hope you will explore this new tool.

For help working with ATUS data and for more information on the survey, please visit the ATUS Labstat Tips webpage and the ATUS homepage.

Time spent volunteering in 2013

In contrast to the usual BLS focus on paid employment (counting how many people are employed, their pay and benefits, and characteristics of workers and their jobs), this week we have a new BLS report about the important unpaid work that Americans do through volunteer activities. About 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2012 and September 2013. The volunteer rate in 2013 was 25.4 percent, the lowest it has been since BLS began collecting comparable statistics about volunteers in 2002. Volunteers spent a median of 50 hours on volunteer activities from September 2012 to September 2013. Time spent on volunteer activities was similar for women and men. Among those who volunteered, median annual hours spent on volunteer activities ranged from a low of 36 hours for people 25 to 34 years old to a high of 86 hours for people age 65 and older.

In 2013, the organization for which the volunteer worked the most hours was most frequently religious (33.0 percent of all volunteers), followed by educational or youth service related (25.6 percent) and social or community service organizations (14.7 percent). Among volunteers with children under 18 years old, 44.5 percent of mothers and 38.3 percent of fathers volunteered mainly for an educational or youth service organization, such as a school or scouting group. Volunteers without children under age 18 were more likely than parents to volunteer for other types of organizations, such as social or community service organizations and religious organizations.

The activities that volunteers performed most frequently for their main organization were collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food (10.9 percent), fundraising (10.0 percent), and tutoring or teaching (9.8 percent). Men and women tended to engage in different main activities. Men who volunteered were most likely to engage in general labor (11.4 percent) or coach, referee, or supervise sports teams (9.9 percent). Women were most likely to collect, prepare, distribute, or serve food (12.5 percent), fundraise (11.5 percent), or tutor or teach (11.4 percent).

The daily feature The Economics Daily includes some eye-catching interesting graphics on the characteristics of volunteers and their volunteer activities.

In closing, I want to mention that this week we posted a notice about the 2014 Budget Enacted for Bureau of Labor Statistics. In order to achieve the necessary savings for this funding level and protect core programs, the BLS will curtail the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and the International Price Program. Through these measures, BLS will be able to preserve the quality of its remaining products.